Reno Gazette - Journal
Work begins on Truckee River white-water park
By Jeff DeLong, Date: 8/6/2003
 
   
 Andy Barron/Andy Barron
Workers unroll a temporary dam Wednesday to divert water from the north channel of the Truckee River to the south channel, so that digging can begin for a new white-water park at Wingfield Park.
   
 

    Work has begun on Reno’s long-awaited white-water park in the Truckee River, a project supporters say could significantly enhance efforts to market the area as an outdoors adventure destination.
    After a funding shortfall threatened to delay the project for a year, crews on Wednesday diverted the flow of the Truckee River from the channel north of Wingfield Island, so serious digging can commence there by next week.
    By November, the $1.5 million project — the centerpiece of planned improvements along a 24-mile stretch of the river from Verdi to Vista — should be complete. A lot of folks will be waiting with paddles ready.
    “Reno just doesn’t have a clue just how nice the river will be,” said Charles Albright of the Sierra Nevada Whitewater Club, a primary advocate of a park that will be the first of its kind west of the Rockies.
    The white-water course will encircle both sides of the island that is Wingfield Park. The south channel will be reconstructed to serve as a slalom racing course for kayaks. The north channel will be for freestyle kayak rodeos, rafting, inner tubing and other types of white-water fun.
    Construction of the project this summer was made possible by a $1.5 million loan announced in late May, days before a deadline arrived that would have forced a year’s delay. The Eldorado and Harrah’s hotel-casinos and the city of Reno will provide the upfront cost, which ultimately will be covered by the proceeds of a Washoe County bond act approved by voters in 2000.
    It is expected the white-water park could draw as many as 50,000 kayakers per year and as many as 100,000 spectators, according to the Nevada Commission on Tourism. They say it could also go a long way toward furthering efforts to promote the Reno area as an outdoor destination and diversify a gaming-dependent economy.
    “If we look back five years from now, I think we’re going to say this was a turning point,” said Lt. Gov. Lorraine Hunt, chairwoman of the Truckee River Whitewater Steering Committee and the commission on tourism. Hunt was scheduled to join Reno Mayor Bob Cashell and other officials for today’s official groundbreaking for the project.
    Special events like kayak races may well prove to be Reno’s “savior” as the community faces challenges like those posed by the proliferation of gaming, Hunt said.
    “It’s our job to sell it and this kayak course is going to give us a focus,” Hunt said. “I just think it’s going to be a real catalyst.”
    If hopes in Reno are high, they’ve already been realized in places including Golden, Colorado, where a white-water park was built several years ago and expanded into the downtown area last year. Golden City Manager Mike Bestor said his city enjoys about $2 million in economic benefits from the park annually. Although Bestor could not provide attendance estimates, he said evidence of the park’s popularity is evident everywhere.
    “You see the cars with the boats on them all over town,” Bestor said. “The guy in the bagel shop says he does a great business.” Bestor said there’s little doubt that construction of the Clear Creek Whitewater Park has been a boon to his community. “I think it’s been a great advantage to us,” he said.
    Frederick Reimers, managing editor of Colorado-based Paddler Magazine, said the country’s rafting and kayaking community is paying close attention to the Reno project. Although some other white-water parks are larger in size, Reno’s park has a larger budget and more white-water “features” than most — including standing waves for surfing kayaks, Reimers said. It is particularly impressive because the park is being built in the core of a major downtown urban area, Reimers said.
    “I think people are really impressed that a major city like Reno would care that much about recreation and river health to do something like this,” Reimers said. “It’s one a lot of people are keeping their eye on.” Those that think the place will only be used by hard-core adrenaline junkies likely will be surprised, Reimers said. “What people in Reno will find is it’s used by everyone,” Reimers said. “People of all ages will flock to that project.”

River flow altered for work

    Even before today’s ceremony, crews from Incline Village-based Cruz Excavating, Inc. were hard at work. On Wednesday, workers blocked the flow of the river’s north channel by erecting a temporary dam. Flow in the north channel was reduced to a trickle after a row of boulders and a 17-foot-wide, 8-foot-tall “aqua dam” [AquaDam®] were placed across the channel entrance to divert the river flow to the south channel. Once work is finished in the north channel’s riverbed, the south channel will be blocked in the same manner, shunting the water flow to the north.
    Officials from the Nevada Division of Wildlife on Wednesday conducted a census of fish in the project area as part of an effort to gauge impact on the fish population. The addition of deep pools that will come as part of the project should actually enhance fish habitat, department spokesman Chris Healy said. Contractors also are required to minimize the amount of sediment entering the river, which serves as the primary water source for the Reno-Sparks area, while work occurs, said Steve Brehler, foreman for Cruz Excavating.
    “They hold us pretty tight in what we’re allowed to send down that river,” Brehler said

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